The Akumalian

Akumal's Newsletter for its Extended Global Community
Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Paradise to Paradise – only colder

By Kate Robinhawk

 In our minds we remember ourselves as being young when we first came to live in Mexico in May, 1988. Kate had turned forty-one that year.  Charles was fifty-four.  Oh, come to think of it, we were young.

 Then it was 2007.  We had lived our dream and in the process changed our lives.  The tropical paradise we had come to live in was something very different.  Time passed, the world changed.  How extremely fortunate we feel to have seen and lived the life of the old, pre-development world on the Mexican Caribbean.

 We needed to return to the US.  We packed our Ford Econoline van to popping full and set out on a Saturday morning late in April.  Suffice it to say that we did make the border, smuggled Kate out of Mexico (a long story for another day) and headed for Monterey, California, where Charles had received a fellowship from The Geological Society of America.  He was going to California for twelve weeks with the California Coastal National Monument.  When we arrived in Monterey and had recovered from sticker shock at the cost of housing, he found the program was to “characterize the geology and land forms” of the Monument.  Did I mention that the Monument includes all the rocks and pinnacles immediately offshore from California?  However, if a big rock is connected to the shore at low tide, it is NOT part of the Monument.

 Aaaaand, the coast is 850 miles long.  That works out to looking at seventy miles of coast each week, if no time is saved to write the report.  In the end, Charles was able to reconnoiter and report on most of the coast between Monterey and the Oregon border and then south to Morro Bay.  The rest was done via published reports with the help of the library at the Moss Landing Marine Lab.

 By the end of July, Charles had accepted a one-year teaching post in the geology department at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  He finished the report for the National Monument on Friday, and we were back on the road with the dog and stuffed van.  Registration at Sam Houston started mid-August and classes began the last week of the month.  We pulled into Huntsville and two days later had a nice apartment at half the rental of the one in California. 

 A few months later, the dog discovered fire.  Yep, Texas gets cold in the winter, so the apartment had a fireplace.  We had never seen a creature so mesmerized as our tropical dog.  When the blaze would die way down and we didn’t fix it immediately, he would point his nose toward the fire and blow, like Charles would do when he put some sticks on and blew on the embers. 

 So far things were going okay, but the position at Sam was for a year.  Where did we want to land next?  Would you believe California?  

 The coast, the flowers, the wildlife each is indescribably attractive.  Ignore the fact that there is no snorkeling in Monterey Bay.  The bay is way too murky and too cold.  There is no diving either; same reasons at least for Kate.  The water is in the mid-fifties range. 

 The magic comes from watching the sea otters in the kelp forest, harbor seals, elephant seals, pods of dolphins, orcas and other whales, blues, grays and humpbacks, not to mention the birds.  The weather can be spectacularly clear, bright and even warm.  The warm part is conditional.  The ocean is cold, so the wind off the water is cold.  The humidity is low by Akumal standards, around 50-60 percent.  But, the cold humid west wind bites.  It is never freezing cold and it is never really warm.  Okay, never is too strong, but that’s our bottom-line impression. 

 Kate is working.  She started out taking temp jobs, work a few days, off a few, nice.  She worked in the Banquets Department (food again) at Pebble Beach Lodge on the famous golf course where the ghosts of people like Bing Crosby and Sammy Snead hang out.  Another assignment had her working with a real estate management agency in Carmel-by-the-Sea, (tourist rentals again).  Carmel or “Charmel” as the locals call it is the most-upscale (but-pretend-that-it’s-really-just-rustic) place we have seen.  No, we don’t see much of Clint.

 Then Kate was assigned to work at Language Line Services, where she has been for four years.  Today, she is an Enigmatologist in the contracts department.  Kate loves working there because LLS provides an essential service connecting people through language interpretation.   At Language Line, lives are saved every day.  It is very rewarding, and in Kate’s position she gets to fall down rabbit holes chasing the elusive mad hatter or something like him, and she likes it. 

 Also at the same time she started at Language Line she began her journey into becoming a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  After intense training in the marine biology of the Monterey Bay and nearby areas, she went from apprentice guide to a full-fledged guide talking to visitors from all over the world about marine animals and global climate change.  Heaven, as you can imagine for Kate, is a re-creation of the CEA Center, only with seemingly unlimited money to create amazing exhibits.  The coral reef exhibit is breathtaking and just the perfect example of a protected coral reef, unpolluted and never fished.  It will blow your mind.

 Three months after graduating Guide class, she was invited to become a mentor to the next groups of apprentice guides.  Mentoring has been extraordinarily rewarding and extremely challenging.  Staying one step ahead of the newbies can be quite the run.  Extra training is oftentimes offered to mentors, and Kate became a member of the National Association of Interpreter Guides.  This means Kate is a certified storyteller. 

 Kate is working on several proposals, one to the aquarium to redesign the green sea turtle’s exhibit to truly show how they live their lives.  Secondly, the Central Coast is experiencing the effects of agricultural runoff, overuse of the available water and is facing severe water rationing in a couple of years that will deeply affect the tourism of the region.  Kate is exploring possible venues to continue her interest in low-entropy waste management systems that could help alleviate the pain of water rationing.  Fortunately, Monterey County has a truly effective waste management center.  The entire county recycles.  Composting is taught at the Center, and many Monterey residents are involved.  Vermiculture is huge, but we decided it would be like having 20,000 children who wanted to run away from home, if home isn’t perfect.  It is good to live where there is willingness, as there is in Akumal.  Huntsville not so much, they have the “Try to Recycle” program.  Sad.

 Two years ago, Charles began his book about the Yucatan Peninsula.  So far, he has completed ten chapters.  Three of them deal with the Caribbean coast and Akumal and tell a story about the history of the coast.  The other chapters go farther back in time and deal with the aftermath of the famous Chicxulub meteor impact.  It should be done this year.  We will let you know when the book is published.

 We miss the feeling of community that exists in Akumal and oftentimes talk about our return.  Just when the return will happen is unclear at this point.  Right now, we are fully engaged in enjoying our lives here, which includes our son, Just, who has joined us and our granddaughter Jaz, who loved the University of California at Santa Cruz campus when we visited it last week.  Jaz begins college next fall, and we find that California is on her short list.  

 So, as you can see we are busy as usual and as usual we are imagining our next adventure.  Who knows?  It just may be back to Mexico or perhaps it will be Italy where we were headed when we ended up in Quintana Roo.  We will keep you posted.  

 Bottom line though is we miss you all!  If you are coming to the Central California Coast, let us know you’re coming! (  or  )  We can show you some spectacular scenery, amazing marine animals, great happy hours with half price wine and yummy appetizers, superb music, art from one end of the spectrum to the other and the marine layer (it’s free)!

 Kate, Charles and Bo


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